Almost everyone has heard of a chiropractor and many others have actually been treated by them. While many people know that a chiropractor can help them with their back pain or headaches, only a few really know what a chiropractor actually does. How a chiropractic doctors views the body and uses that information to provide care for each patient is what really differentiates them from other health care professionals. Chiropractors view the body as a complete entity, instead dividing the body up and focusing on different individual systems. To accomplish this holistic approach, the chiropractic profession has focused on the one thing every aspect of the body has in common, being controlled by the nervous system.
Through the professions investigation of the nervous system, it has been found that the primary cause of symptoms, disease, and sickness results from the interruption of the nervous system’s signals. To understand this, one must comprehend that every signal small action or function of the body is controlled by signals being transmitted from the brain, through the nervous system, and finally to its destination. There are various different causes of disruption of this pathway, but subluxations have been found to be primarily responsible. In Latin, subluxation literally means “slight” and “to dislocate”. Similar to a dislocation of the shoulder or other joint in the body, the vertebrae in our back can move slightly out of place. Even though these movements are slight, the result can be dramatic. Basically, chiropractors are different in that their main focus is to detect and correct any of these misalignments.
How Do Chiropractors Correct “Subluxations”?
Subluxations can develop from a variety of causes including trauma, stress, and toxins in our environment. Commonly, these misaligned vertebrae can cause stress and damage to its surrounding structures including nerves. As a result, pain and dysfunction of the end organ intended to receive the message begins. Thankfully, our chiropractors at Willis ChiroMed are trained to diagnosis and correct these abnormalities. The correction of these bones is termed an adjustment and when they are returned to their proper position the body is allowed to function properly. So in reality, chiropractors are not doing the healing, they are simply facilitating the body’s ability to heal itself. It was once said, that the body doesn’t need any assistance, it just needs no interference.
Before an adjustment is performed, the doctor will conduct careful diagnostic procedures to pin-point which bones are out of alignment. After the position of the bone is discovered, a quick/low-force thrust will be applied to begin to reposition the bone in the spine. Patients often hear audible “pop” which is a normal, but not always part of an adjustment. There is a misconception that this “popping” sensation is the result of bones moving on each other, but in reality it is caused by gas escaping from the joint, similar to what happens when a balloon pops. If there is no sound during the adjustment, this doesn’t mean that it wasn’t effective. Vertebrae are often moved gradually, restoring proper function, without any popping sensation.
Typically, patients begin to experience some level of relief within a few minutes or hours following an adjustment. This is due to the stress being removed from the surrounding structures of the misaligned vertebrae. Occasionally, patients experience some unpleasantness following an adjustment as the body adapts. This can be due to the irritation caused by tense muscles and the swelling that was caused by the subluxation.
The time frame to correct a subluxation or to return a vertebra to its proper position varies from person to person. Many factors can influence the healing process including, age, chronic of the subluxation, co-morbid conditions, adherence to the treatment plan etc. Often other healing procedures such as soft tissue massage, physical therapy, and acupuncture are used in combination with an adjustment to assist in the process. After correction of the subluxation, chiropractors may periodically schedule visits to monitor the position and prevent future misalignments.
What Makes up a Subluxation?
Due to the complex structure of the body, a subluxation can encompass more than just a bone being out of position. Once a vertebrae moves, it typically has an effect on surrounding tissues as well. Therefore a subluxation is usually described as vertebral subluxation complex, consisting of 5 different components.
1. Bone Component:
As previously discussed, the basis for a subluxation is the actual vertebrae moving out of alignment. Unfortunately, if the subluxation is not treated in a timely matter, degeneration can begin, resulting in closer of the passageways for the surrounding nerves. This pressure and damage placed on the nerve is often the source of pain associated with subluxations.
2. Nerve Component:
The nerve component is used to described the damage and irritation placed on the nerve due to the misaligned vertebrae. As a nerve is narrowed or compressed, its signal isn’t sent as efficiently. An analogy would be to think of a garden hose being pinched. As the hose is pinched, the water (or nervous system) message is slowed and not sent completely. Therefore, the grass doesn’t receive enough water and its growth is slowed leading to its eventual death. When applying this analogy to your body, it becomes more obvious of how these bony misalignments can have devastating effects on the body, eventually leading to various forms of disease and sickness.
3. Muscular Component:
Imagine the body with no muscles. We would be nothing more than a pile of bones lying on the floor. Just like the organs in our body, the nervous system is responsible for the function of every muscle that helps to provide us with structure. Therefore, it is just as important to consider the muscle in the body as it is the nervous system and bones. For example, if a bone is out of position it can cause irritation to the the surrounding nerves, which eventually leads to the dysfunction of the supplied muscle. As these muscles become over or under active, the bones are allowed to fall further out of place and the cycle continues. You can now begin to understand the complexity of the system and we have only reached number 3 of 5.
4. Soft Tissue Component:
Muscles and nerves are not the only tissues that are affected by subluxations. In addition to the surrounding nerves, tendons and ligaments are placed under abnormal stress as subluxations develop. These stresses can cause the aforementioned structures to expand beyond their normal limits resulting in pain and abnormal motion. Without appropriate treatment in an acceptable amount of time, these structures will adapt to their new positions, form scar tissue, and become permanently damaged.
5. Chemical Component:
The chemical component of the vertebral subluxation complex is typically a result of the previous four changes. As the tissue surrounding a subluxated vertebrae is stressed and damaged, the body responds by secreting various substances called kinins. While the name of substance isn’t important, the result is. Through a complex pathway, the chemical component of the vertebral subluxation complex results in an elevation of inflammation and pain. These changes contribute to the problematic cycle encountered with subluxations.
As with most conditions the sooner the treatment happens the better. If not corrected within an appropriate time frame, various disease processes begin. Commonly seen complications at Willis ChiroMed have included; degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, bone spur develop, muscle spasm or inhibition, and loss of normal motion in the back. To prevent these negative effects of a vertebral subluxation complex, it is important that you be evaluated by health care professional who is well versed in their diagnosis and treatment. Chiropractors are the only professionals who are specifically trained in their treatment, so contact our Willis ChiroMed today to set up a consultation.